Posts Tagged ‘U.S. military’

U.S. Air Force Weighs International Squadrons to Strike Terror Targets

January 19, 2018

Use of low-cost fighter planes would allow deployment of higher-tech jets to areas requiring their advanced capabilities

Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, answers questions during a news briefing at the Pentagon on Nov. 9.Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

The U.S. Air Force is considering forming international squadrons of low-cost fighter planes to strike terrorist targets in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, allowing deployment of higher-tech jets to areas requiring their advanced capabilities.

A new unit employing relatively inexpensive off-the-shelf aircraft could free up cutting-edge U.S. and allied jet fighters for deterrence missions in Europe and Asia, and could help relieve a critical pilot shortage the U.S. Air Force faces, military and congressional officials say.

 

As the U.S. transitions its fighter fleet to new advanced stealth planes, like the F-22 and F-35, it is confronted with the difficult cost equation of using a fighter jet that costs $150 million to buy and $35,000 an hour to fly to destroy a terrorist camp of tattered tents.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighter aircraft refuels during an exercise over Nevada in 2016.Photo: Msgt Burt Traynor/Planet Pix/ZUMA Pres

Now, as Russia and China invest in their militaries and assert themselves more, the U.S. faces the additional problem of how and where to deploy limited numbers of stealthy warplanes to deter so-called peer competitors.

Congressional defense experts are urging the Air Force to rethink its strategy. They want it to move more of its advanced aircraft to Asia and Europe and design a plane that is cheaper to build and operate in the Middle East and other terror hot spots.

The U.S.’s annual defense-policy bill, which was signed into law in December, called on the Air Force to spend as much as $1.2 billion over five years to purchase as many as 300 aircraft, at the insistence of Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.).

The Air Force is reviewing a study of using commercially designed light-attack planes, similar to the 20 A-29 Super Tucano planes the U.S. has been buying for the Afghan Air Force since 2016, U.S. Air Force officials say.

The Air Force is also considering a jet and two other turboprops. All have a sticker price below $20 million apiece and hourly operating costs ranging from roughly $500 for the turboprops to around $3,000 for the jet.

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said his service hopes this year to choose a plane for a combat demonstration. While the Air Force is enthusiastic, it could take another year before the Air Force budget would reflect the procurement of such planes, officials said.

Once the U.S. chooses a plane, and if it acquires a fleet, it plans to push allies to purchase the same airplane. Gen. Goldfein has appointed an Air Force team to study the possibility of creating international squadrons that could be deployed to support the fight against Islamic State or other terror groups.

“We have to be creative here,” Gen. Goldfein. “I don’t know if it is feasible or not, but it gets the creative juices flowing.”

Gen. Goldfein, himself a fighter pilot, flew two light attack aircraft last summer during a visit to Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico, including the Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine.

While the U.S. is still reviewing the plan and hasn’t formally approached other countries, Gen. Goldfein in September met with air chiefs from 12 countries who have been fighting Islamic State and raised the possibility of the international squadron to gauge interest.

One European military official called the idea interesting and said it was “a good idea to take a harder look.”

U.S. Air Force leaders particularly like the idea of relatively cheap, off-the-shelf aircraft because it would encourage partner nations not only in Europe but also in Africa and Latin America to contribute to the bigger counterterrorism fight, service officials said.

Even if European allies don’t buy the light attack planes, they could potentially contribute to the squadron by lending pilots.

“Maybe other countries can bring some of the manpower,” Gen. Goldfein said.

A Blackhawk helicopter flies above a parked A-29 Super Tucano aircraft during a handover ceremony of Blackhawk helicopters from U.S. to Afghan forces at Kandahar airbase on Oct. 7.Photo: Omar Sobhani/REUTERS

Some European military also face pilot shortfalls. Another complication is that training on light attack planes, particularly if the U.S. chooses a turboprop aircraft, doesn’t necessarily hone skills need to fly faster and more-sophisticated jet fighters. But training with U.S. pilots, widely considered the best in the world, is often an experience that partner nations are eager to embrace, allied officials say.

Image may contain: sky, airplane, outdoor and nature

AT-6 Wolverine

Pentagon and congressional aides say airstrikes are critical to keeping militant groups weak enough for local forces to manage. In countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, the airspace generally isn’t contested.

The most advanced U.S. planes, like the F-35 and F-22, also contain classified communications and network software that Washington is unwilling to share with all allies. Fielding a low-end plane wouldn’t only be more cost-effective, it would also allow the U.S. and allies to talk and share data more efficiently.

“The strategy is to drive violent extremism down so local police can manage it,” Gen. Goldfein said. “That is the strategy from the Philippines to Nigeria and everywhere in between. If that is the strategy, how do we get a platform-sensor weapon we can build into a coalition?”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com and Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com

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Turkey says its ‘mistrust’ of Washington over Syria continues

January 18, 2018

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey said on Thursday it was not satisfied with Washington’s attempts to allay its concern about the creation of a Syrian border force on its southern frontier, adding its “direct mistrust” of the United States continued.

NATO member Turkey has reacted angrily to a statement by the U.S.-led coalition that it is helping set up a new 30,000-strong border force in Syria including members of the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia.

Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PPK), which has waged a three-decade-old insurgency in Turkey’s southeast.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he had met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to clarify the issue, and said the situation had been “misportrayed, misdescribed”.

“We voiced our discomfort in the meetings we held with the Secretary of Defence and the Secretary of State … However, the United States’ statements did not fully satisfy us,” Cavusoglu told broadcaster CNN Turk in an interview.

Image result for Cavusoglu, photos

“Our direct mistrust of the United States continues … We need to see concrete steps from the United States.”

Cavusoglu reiterated Turkey’s warning that it would intervene militarily in the Kurdish-controlled Afrin region close to the Turkish border, and said he had told the United States that Ankara did not want to face an ally there.

“We will intervene in Afrin. We will also take steps to the east of the Euphrates against threats,” Cavusoglu said.

Turkey and the United States, both allies in NATO, have been on the same side for much of Syria’s civil war, both supporting rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But a decision by Washington to back Kurdish forces fighting against Islamic State infuriated Ankara.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler and Andrew Roche

Turkey says could act in Syria unless U.S. withdraws support for Kurdish force

January 18, 2018

Reuters

HATAY, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkey said on Wednesday it would not hesitate to take action in Syria’s Afrin district and other areas unless the United States withdrew support for a Kurdish-led force there, but Washington denied such plans and said “some people misspoke”.

Turkey is moving tanks and troops for a possible assault

Turkish President Erdogan has repeatedly warned of an imminent incursion in Afrin after Washington said it would help the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish YPG militia, set up a new 30,000-strong border force.

The plan has infuriated Turkey, which considers the Syrian YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984. The PKK is considered a terrorist group by the European Union, Turkey and the United States.

Deputy Prime Minister and Government Spokesman Bekir Bozdag told reporters after a Cabinet meeting the planned U.S.-backed force posed a threat to Turkey’s national security, territorial integrity and the safety of its citizens.

“We emphasized that such a step was very wrong,” he said. “Turkey has reached the limits of its patience. Nobody should expect Turkey to show more patience.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied that the United States had any intention of building a Syria-Turkey border force and said the issue had been “misportrayed, misdescribed”.

“Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all,” Tillerson told reporters on board an aircraft taking him back to Washington from Vancouver, where he had attended a meeting on North Korea.

“I think it’s unfortunate that comments made by some left that impression,” he said, without giving details. “That is not what we’re doing.”

He said Turkish officials had been told U.S. intentions were only ”to ensure that local elements are providing security to

liberated areas”.

The Pentagon said in an earlier statement it was training “internally focused” Syrian fighters with a goal of preventing the Islamic State group’s resurgence and ensuring Syrians displaced by the war could return to their communities.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of Turkey, our coalition partner and NATO ally. Turkey’s security concerns are legitimate,” it said.

A Turkish military tanks arrives at an army base in the border town of Reyhanli near the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

TANKS DEPLOYED

Some Turkish troops have been in Syria for three months after entering northern Idlib province following an agreement with Russia and Iran to try to reduce fighting between pro-Syrian government forces and rebel fighters.

The observation posts which the Turkish army says it has established are close to the dividing line between Arab rebel-held land and Kurdish-controlled Afrin.

Turkey’s National Security Council said earlier on Wednesday Turkey would not allow the formation of a “terrorist army” along its borders.

Slideshow (7 Images)

As the council met, a Reuters reporter witnessed the Turkish army deploying nine tanks to a military base just outside the city of Hatay, near the border with Afrin, to the west of the area where the border force is planned. That followed earlier reports of a military buildup in the area.

“When the Turkish people and Turkish state’s safety is in question, when it is necessary to remove risks and destroy threats, Turkey will do so without hesitation,” Bozdag said.

On Monday, with relations between the United States and Turkey stretched close to breaking point, Erdogan threatened to “strangle” the planned U.S.-backed force in Syria “before it’s even born”.

Turkey and the United States, both allies in NATO, were on the same side for much of Syria’s civil war, both supporting rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But a decision by Washington to back Kurdish forces fighting against Islamic State in recent years has angered Ankara.

The United States has about 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria.

Bozdag reiterated Ankara’s demand that Washington cease its “inexplicable” and “unacceptable” support of the YPG.

“In the case that Turkey’s demands are not met, we will take determined steps in Afrin and other regions to protect our interests. We will take these steps without considering what anyone can say,” Bozdag said. “When will this happen? Suddenly.”

The Cabinet also agreed to extend a state of emergency imposed after a failed 2016 coup attempt from Jan. 18, Bozdag said, in a move likely to prolong a post-putsch crackdown that saw more than 50,000 people arrested and 150,000 others sacked or suspended from their jobs.

Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington and David Brunnstrom on board a U.S. government aircraft; Editing by Peter Graff, James Dalgleish and Paul Tait

Military Quietly Prepares for a Last Resort: War With North Korea

January 15, 2018

The New York Times

January 14, 2018

WASHINGTON — Across the military, officers and troops are quietly preparing for a war they hope will not come.

At Fort Bragg in North Carolina last month, a mix of 48 Apache gunships and Chinook cargo helicopters took off in an exercise that practiced moving troops and equipment under live artillery fire to assault targets. Two days later, in the skies above Nevada, 119 soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division parachuted out of C-17 military cargo planes under cover of darkness in an exercise that simulated a foreign invasion.

Next month, at Army posts across the United States, more than 1,000 reserve soldiers will practice how to set up so-called mobilization centers that move military forces overseas in a hurry. And beginning next month with the Winter Olympics in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang, the Pentagon plans to send more Special Operations troops to the Korean Peninsula, an initial step toward what some officials said ultimately could be the formation of a Korea-based task force similar to the types that are fighting in Iraq and Syria. Others said the plan was strictly related to counterterrorism efforts.

In the world of the American military, where contingency planning is a mantra drummed into the psyche of every officer, the moves are ostensibly part of standard Defense Department training and troop rotations. But the scope and timing of the exercises suggest a renewed focus on getting the country’s military prepared for what could be on the horizon with North Korea.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both argue forcefully for using diplomacy to address Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. A war with North Korea, Mr. Mattis said in August, would be “catastrophic.” Still, about two dozen current and former Pentagon officials and senior commanders said in interviews that the exercises largely reflected the military’s response to orders from Mr. Mattis and service chiefs to be ready for any possible military action on the Korean Peninsula.

President Trump’s own words have left senior military leaders and rank-and-file troops convinced that they need to accelerate their contingency planning.

During the 82nd Airborne exercise in Nevada last month, Army soldiers practiced moving paratroopers on helicopters and flew artillery, fuel and ammunition deep behind what was designated as enemy lines. CreditU.S. Army

In perhaps the most incendiary exchange, in a September speech at the United Nations, Mr. Trump vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if it threatened the United States, and derided the rogue nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as “Rocket Man.” In response, Mr. Kim said he would deploy the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the United States, and described Mr. Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

Mr. Trump’s rhetoric has since cooled, following a fresh attempt at détente between Pyongyang and Seoul. In an interview last week with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Trump was quoted as saying, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un,” despite their mutual public insults. But the president said on Sunday that The Journal had misquoted him, and that he had actually said “I’d probably have” a good relationship if he wanted one.

A false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday that set off about 40 minutes of panic after a state emergency response employee mistakenly sent out a text alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack underscored Americans’ anxiety about North Korea.

A Conventional Mission

After 16 years of fighting insurgents in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, American commanding generals worry that the military is better prepared for going after stateless groups of militants than it is for its own conventional mission of facing down heavily fortified land powers that have their own formidable militaries and air defenses.

The exercise at Fort Bragg was part of one of the largest air assault exercises in recent years. The practice run at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada used double the number of cargo planes for paratroopers as was used in past exercises.

The Army Reserve exercise planned for next month will breathe new life into mobilization centers that have been largely dormant as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wound down. And while the military has deployed Special Operations reaction forces to previous large global events, like the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, those units usually numbered around 100 — far fewer than some officials said could be sent for the Olympics in South Korea. Others discounted that possibility.

At a wide-ranging meeting at his headquarters on Jan. 2, Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., warned the 200 civilians and service members in the audience that more Special Forces personnel might have to shift to the Korea theater from the Middle East in May or June, if tensions escalate on the peninsula. The general’s spokesman, Capt. Jason Salata, confirmed the account provided to The New York Times by someone in the audience, but said General Thomas made it clear that no decisions had been made.

Read the rest:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/14/us/politics/military-exercises-north-korea-pentagon.html

U.S. Turns Military Focus to Afghanistan as ISIS Battles Ebb

January 11, 2018

Pentagon plans to dedicate new combat advisers, drones and other hardware in 2018

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon is planning to double down on the Trump administration’s new approach in Afghanistan by reallocating drones and other hardware while sending in approximately 1,000 new combat advisers, according to U.S. and military officials.

The idea is to bulk up the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by the time the traditional fighting season begins in the spring. The military will send a larger number of drones, both armed and unarmed, to Afghanistan for air support as well as for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Pentagon also plans to bolster capabilities such as helicopters, ground vehicles, artillery and related materiel, according to U.S. officials, moves made possible by a reduction of combat operations in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State extremist group.

Adding to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the administration will deploy as soon as next month members of an Army security-force assistance brigade from Fort Benning, Ga., to work as combat advisers to Afghan National Security Forces, expanding the U.S. training commitment, the officials said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, right, is briefed by U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, in Doha, Qatar, in April 2017. Photo: BRIGITTE N. BRANTLEY/PLANET PIX/ZUMA PRESS

These moves all accelerate President Donald Trump’s decision last August to approve some 4,000 additional troops in Afghanistan, bringing the number of American personnel to about 14,000. The additional security-force assistance units could push that number higher, although other forces could be withdrawn at the same time.

The emphasis on Afghanistan is part of a broader shift that ultimately is expected to shrink America’s military footprint in the Middle East as it refocuses its capabilities in East Asia.

That shift grew out of a request by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that Army Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, recommend ways to rethink the military capabilities those countries will require over time.

Mr. Mattis, in a video teleconference late last year, asked Gen. Votel to consider how to use military resources for Afghanistan and to counter Iran, while also giving up military capabilities in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia, where the U.S. faces North Korean hostility and Chinese assertiveness.

The collapse of territory controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria led to calls to shift some of the resources dedicated to that war. But past lessons loom large, and U.S. military planners have said they don’t want to remove troops helping to fight Islamic State and risk allowing an insurgency.

How Islamic State’s Caliphate Crumbled Maps tell the story of the terror group’s violent rise and fall in Syria and Iraq—and show where the homecoming of ISIS foreign recruits poses the next challenge.

One military official described the dilemma by noting how the Pentagon expends massive resources to eliminate tactical threats—say two suspected terrorists riding a motorcycle inside Iraq or Syria—while lagging in some aspects of competition with China.

Mr. Mattis didn’t put a deadline on drawing down resources from Central Command, the military official said. His direction was premised on the need to allocate resources elsewhere around the globe, including the Pacific Rim.

The Pentagon is preparing to release a national defense strategy Jan. 19, building on the White House’s own national security strategy released last month.

Top military leaders publicly hinted at the shift toward Afghanistan late last year. “As assets free up from Iraq and Syria and the successful fight against [Islamic State] in that theater, we expect to see more assets come to Afghanistan,” Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander in Afghanistan, told reporters Nov. 28.

U.S. military planners hope to reduce the number of ground troops in Iraq and Syria over the next year, as local forces increasingly take the lead, U.S. military and defense officials said.

The remaining U.S. forces would focus on counterterrorism operations and security for diplomats and contractors, another U.S. military official said. There now are more than 5,000 American troops in Iraq and Syria, according to the Pentagon.

A U.S. Marine looks on as Afghan National Army soldiers raise the Afghan National flag on an armed vehicle during a training exercise at the Shorab Military Camp in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, in August 2017.Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

In Brussels, allied officials said they have sensed a shift in U.S. priorities as well, with less pressure from the Americans for contributions to the coalition fight against Islamic State in the Middle East. Instead, the officials said, there is more of a focus by the U.S. on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization effort in Afghanistan. Allied diplomats say that reflects the gains the coalition has made in retaking territory from Islamic State, and the new troop requirements necessitated by the administration’s strategy for Afghanistan.

U.S. Central Command has enjoyed the lion’s share of Pentagon resources as it has fought wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, but officials there recognize many of those resources may need to go elsewhere.

“We are going to use them as long as we have them,” one defense official said. “The clock could be ticking. We don’t know.”

Mr. Mattis’s Pentagon, however, is aware that drastic troop reductions in Iraq and Syria could allow militants to return.

“The real caution, the thing that’s being discussed, is that we cannot make the mistake of taking our eye off ISIS too quickly,” a military official said, using an acronym for Islamic State. “We don’t want to make the same mistake we’ve made before, we don’t want to allow that to happen.”

—Julian E. Barnes in Brussels contributed to this article.

Write to Nancy A. Youssef at Nancy.Youssef@wsj.com and Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com

SpaceX-Launched Satellite for the U.S. Military May Be Lost, Officials Say

January 9, 2018

Bloomberg

By Anthony Capaccio and  Dana Hull

  • Second-stage rocket failed: U.S. and congressional officials
  • Falcon 9 rocket ‘performed nominally,’ SpaceX spokesman says

SpaceX Launches Secret Mission Code Named ‘Zuma’

A military satellite launched by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. hasn’t been spotted in orbit by the U.S. Strategic Command, creating a mystery about the fate of the classified payload and doubts about whether the mission was a success.

The mission — referred to by the code name Zuma — took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Sunday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. But the Strategic Command, which monitors more than 23,000 man-made objects in space, said it is not tracking any new satellites since the launch.

“We have nothing to add to the satellite catalog at this time,” Navy Captain Brook DeWalt, a spokesman for the command, said in an email when asked if the new satellite was in orbit.

A U.S. official and two congressional aides, all familiar with the launch, said on condition of anonymity that the second-stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster rocket failed. The satellite was lost, one of the congressional aides said, and the other said both the satellite and the second-stage satellite fell into the ocean after the failure.

“We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally,” James Gleeson, a spokesman for SpaceX, said in an email.

Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Corp., which was commissioned by the Defense Department to choose the launch contractor, said “we cannot comment on classified missions,” and Army Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, the Pentagon’s spokesman for space policy, referred questions to SpaceX.

The launch is SpaceX’s first in what was expected to be a busy year. The company has said it plans to launch about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 last year. The launch had been pushed back several times since late 2017, with the past week’s extreme weather on the East Coast contributing to the most recent delay.

The Zuma mission was a clear success on at least one count: SpaceX successfully landed the rocket’s first stage for reuse in a future launch, a key step in its goal to drive down the cost of access to space.

SpaceX’s 23-minute webcast of the Zuma launch Sunday evening included the Falcon 9 launch, confirmation that the fairings deployed, and the rocket’s first-stage recovery on land in Florida. Cheers from employees could be heard from Mission Control at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

The webcast then concluded. During missions for commercial satellite customers, SpaceX typically returns to the webcast to confirm that the payload has separated from the second stage, but Zuma was a classified mission so the lack of further messages wasn’t surprising.

SpaceX, the closely held company founded and led by chief executive officer Elon Musk — who also heads the electric auto manufacturer Tesla Inc. — is slated to demonstrate the maiden flight of Falcon Heavy, a larger and more powerful rocket, later this month. SpaceX, along with Boeing Co., also has a contract with NASA to fly astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the “Commercial Crew” program, with the first crucial test flight slated for the second quarter.

SpaceX competes for military launches with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp., which was the sole provider for the Pentagon until Musk launched a campaign in Congress and the courts challenging what he called an unfair monopoly. After a rigorous Air Force review, SpaceX was certified in 2015 to compete for military launches.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-09/spacex-launched-satellite-isn-t-seen-in-orbit-pentagon-says

U.S. military warns against getting hopes up over North Korean overture

January 4, 2018

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Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) – The head of U.S. forces in South Korea warned on Thursday against raising hopes over North Korea’s peace overture amid a war of words between the United States and the reclusive North over its nuclear and missile programs.

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Hwasong-15.

In a New Year address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he was open to dialogue with U.S. ally South Korea and could send a delegation to the Winter Olympics to be held in the South in February.

Kim also warned that he would push ahead with “mass producing” nuclear warheads, pursuing a weapons program in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

In response, Seoul on Tuesday proposed high-level talks at a border village and on Wednesday, the two Koreas reopened a border hotline that had been closed since February 2016.

“We must keep our expectations at the appropriate level,” the chief of United States Forces Korea (USFK), Vincent Brooks, was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying in an address to a university in Seoul.

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Kim Jong-un shows new style, January 1, 2018. Reuters photo

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged a series of bellicose comments in recent months, raising alarm across the world, with Trump at times dismissing the prospect of a diplomatic solution to a crisis in which North Korea has threatened to destroy the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Trump has mocked Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and again ridiculed him on Twitter this week, raising some eyebrows at home.

“Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” he wrote.

The White House on Wednesday defended the tweet, saying, in answer to a question, Americans should be concerned about Kim’s mental fitness, not their president‘s.

U.S. officials have responded coolly to North Korea’s suggestion of talks and the State Department said Pyongyang “might be trying to drive a wedge” between Washington and Seoul.

Brooks, who triples as commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command and the United Nations Command, said the overture was a strategy to divide five countries – the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia – to reach its goal of being accepted as a “nuclear capable” nation, according to the Yonhap report.

“We can’t ignore that reality,” he said, adding it was important for the United States and South Korea to maintain an “ironclad and razor sharp” alliance.

USFK and event organizers could not confirm the commander’s remarks.

The five countries and the North were involved in years of on-again-off-again “six-party talks” aimed at resolving the crisis, negotiations which eventually fizzled when the North pulled out.

North Korea says its weapons are necessary to counter U.S. aggression. The United States stations 28,500 troops in the South, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The security crisis posed by North Korea to Japan is the most perilous since World War Two because of “unacceptable” provocations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday as he vowed to bolster defenses.

Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie

Sexual Assault in U.S. Military Isn’t Going Away as a Problem

December 29, 2017

Numbers of reported offenses are up, though troop surveys indicate that percentage of personnel who make accusations also has increased dramatically

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

FILE Photo credit U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales

Reported sexual assaults in the military are at an all-time high as the Pentagon wrestles with a problem officials say has only recently been addressed and critics say hasn’t been fully recognized.

The depth and persistence of the military’s problem has taken on new relevance this year as allegations of sexual assault and harassment have rocked other parts of society, including business, entertainment and politics.

The number of reported sexual assaults in the military has risen from approximately 3,000 a year in 2007 to more than twice that in 2016, according to Pentagon records. The rate of offenses likely has declined, however, according to troop surveys, as the percentage of those reporting assaults has tripled.

Harassment likely remains an underreported issue, with only 601 complaints filed in 2016 of the more-than 100,000 incidents experts estimate took place. Military officials said harassment must be better addressed because unwelcome behavior can pave the way for assault.

“We look at it as a continuum of harm, sexual harassment being often a precursor for sexual assault and more serious behavior,” said Elizabeth Van Winkle, who is acting as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness. “It’s problematic behaviors that are unacceptable in the military community and certainly against our values. So we do hold them in the same regard.”

Arguably the watershed event on the broader issue was the Tailhook Association conference in Las Vegas in 1991, where some 100 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators allegedly sexually assaulted dozens of men and women. As a result, some top Navy officials saw their careers end abruptly.

Public attention eventually faded, however, and many underlying institutional issues went unresolved, including the perception that senior officers didn’t take the issue seriously and that victims had little support to speak out.

It wasn’t until the mid-2000s that complaints by troops in to war zones prompted then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to order steps to address the problem of assault.

“What the country is going through now is something that we really started to go through in 2005,” said Nathan Galbreath, deputy director of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, created that year. “It occurs much more often than is ever recorded to law enforcement or any authority. That’s true for the civilian sector as well as it is the military sector.”

In the mid 2000s, the Pentagon began taking surveys of troops about assault in the ranks and instituted mandatory training.

But the culture only slowly responded. While the program mandated annual training for troops, the required classes often were seen as a waste of time or even as a joke among some troops and lower-level commanders.

“We have demonstrated one thing: Death by PowerPoint does not change behavior,” Mr. Galbreath said, referring to the courses.

These basic requirements remain, though the department has updated them and increased focus on changing the attitude of officers and senior noncommissioned officers.

During the Obama administration, as complaints arose at colleges across the U.S., the White House pushed educators to use lessons learned by the Pentagon, including its extensive use of surveys and its reporting system.

Yet, there are limits to what civilians can learn from the military, experts said. The Defense Department is 85% male, a much larger percentage than most civilian industries. And two of the most effective tools the military has used—no-cost lawyers for victims and base transfers—don’t generally have parallels in the civilian criminal-justice system.

Moreover, military leaders are judged in performance reviews on how they deal with these issues, and an offender in military court is more likely to face charges for things that wouldn’t be brought in civilian court, including unwanted touching and forced kissing.

“Most prosecutors don’t have the resources to prosecute those cases,” said Brad Carson, the Pentagon’s the acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness from 2015—16. The military, he said, does.

Critics also have faulted another unique feature of military justice: the power of commanders to ignore the advice of lawyers and decide whether many criminal cases move forward.

For all the time and money invested in military sexual assault prevention, some female service members have said they may never truly feel safe, particularly in combat zones where there are even fewer women. To avoid harassment or assault, women service members have said they still use a buddy system when walking across a base.

The Pentagon says the internal surveys show a decrease over time in assault and an increase in the numbers of people willing to report offenses. That combination shows success, officials say, because it means people are now more willing to step forward.

“If people feel like they can’t report, then bad behavior is going to be more common,” said Andrew Morral, a senior behavioral scientist at Rand Corp., which has studied the issue in the military.

The military sometimes struggles to define the line between harassment and assault. That ambiguity affects how cases are handled: Harassment is an issue for human resources; assault is a legal matter. And defining which is which often falls to the discretion of a local-unit commander, creating what some say is a nonstandardized process but others see as allowing more flexibility in sensitive cases.

Mr. Morral said Defense Department numbers showed about 1,000 complaints of sexual harassment in one recent year, 2013. But Rand estimates based on a broader analysis that there actually were as many as 115,000 troops on active duty that year who experienced harassment.

Many harassment victims said they still think nothing will be done if they make a complaint, according to a 2014 Rand survey.

The majority of women who step forward said they have faced retaliation, said Lydia Watts, CEO of the Service Women’s Action Network. She added that the military still has a culture of complicity that also protects offenders.

“People who would never commit a sexual assault feel justified in saying, ‘Why did you ruin my buddy’s career?’ ’’ she said, adding that peers need to speak up when they see wrongdoing. “If you’re observing this behavior, it’s not enough to just say, ‘Hey, don’t go have a drink with him alone.’ ’’

Rand’s research showed a potentially important link between seemingly minor harassment incidents and eventual assaults. One-third of assault victims said their offender first harassed them.

—Nancy A. Youssef and Chris Gordon contributed to this article.

Write to Ben Kesling at benjamin.kesling@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/sexual-assault-in-military-isnt-going-away-as-a-problem-1514502528?cx_testId=16&cx_testVariant=cx&cx_artPos=2&cx_tag=collabctx&cx_navSource=newsReel#cxrecs_s

Top U.S. Marine general: ‘There’s a war coming’

December 22, 2017

 

BY JOSH DELK
The Hill
December 22, 2017
11:16 AM EST
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The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, told troops Thursday that “there’s a war coming” and urged them to be prepared.

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller told Marines stationed in Norway, during a visit there, according to Military.com. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence,” he added. 

Related image

Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller

The commandant pointed to Russia and the Pacific theater as the next major areas of conflict, predicting a “big-ass fight” in the future.

“Just remember why you’re here,” he said. “They’re watching. Just like you watch them, they watch you. We’ve got 300 Marines up here; we could go from 300 to 3,000 overnight. We could raise the bar.”

Neller’s visit comes amid tensions between Russia and NATO allies. Russia warned neighboring Norway that the presence of American troops could hurt relations, after Norway decision to host a new unit of U.S. soldiers through the end of 2018.

The administration says the Marines are there to enhance ties with European NATO allies and train in cold-weather combat.

In a question-and-answer session with the troops, Neller said the U.S. could shift its focus after years of fighting in the Middle East to Eastern Europe, citing Russia’s conflicts with Ukraine and Georgia.

On Monday, President Trump unveiled a new national security strategy that focused on the threats posed by Russia and China to U.S. interests.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/366174-marine-corps-commandant-theres-a-war-coming?__twitter_impression=true

 

Okinawa demands suspension of U.S. military flights over schools and hospitals

December 21, 2017

KYODO

The Okinawa Prefecture Assembly on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution demanding the suspension of flights and drills by U.S. military aircraft over schools and hospitals, after a window fell from an American helicopter onto school grounds last week.

The resolution issued to protest against the incident said, “No more threat to the lives of people in Okinawa should be tolerated,” after a window fell from a CH-53E transport helicopter onto the playground of an elementary school adjacent to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan.

A slew of similar resolutions have been adopted by individual municipal assemblies in the southern island prefecture, protesting the accident that saw the roughly 90-square-centimeter metal-framed window weighing 7.7 kilograms drop into the playground of Futenma No. 2 elementary school, where 54 pupils were participating in physical education activities.

In the assembly’s resolution and a statement sent to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty, the body pointed out that accidents have frequently occurred in the prefecture — including a crash-landing in October by a CH-53E chopper that caught fire on privately owned land in the village of Higashi, located near a U.S. military training area.

The assembly noted that “A feeling of distrust is mounting among Okinawa people as these incidents vividly illustrate that the U.S. military’s measures to prevent similar accidents are not functioning.”

The local council also demanded that the Japanese government keep a promise made between Abe and former Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima to stop operations at the Futenma air base by February 2019.

Since the window incident the U.S. military resumed flights of CH-53E helicopters, on Tuesday afternoon, saying it was caused by human error and not mechanical problems. The Japanese government gave the green light to the decision.

Contributing to bad feeling in the area, a number of phone calls have made to the elementary school reportedly saying that such an incident can’t be helped because the school is located near the U.S. military base.

Even though the U.S. military has admitted the window had fell from its helicopter, some of the telephone calls have reportedly accused the school of staging the incident.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga expressed his discontent on Thursday.

“Even though we’ve explained it over and over again, discrimination and hate speech haven’t improved one bit,” he said.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/21/national/politics-diplomacy/okinawa-demands-suspension-u-s-military-flights-schools-hospitals/#.Wjt4Kd-nGUk